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Old 11-30-2013, 03:51 PM   #3777
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Apr 2011
Location: near Taos
Oddometer: 305
Is O/A a sensible choice for off-grid

I live off-grid and have several projects for which I'd like to be able to weld. I will be teaching myself from videos this winter out in BFE. Realistically if I want to weld on electric I need a bigger genset or a generator welder. I know one can use series'd batteries but that seems to be an emergency get-you-home deal rather than a way to build a full project.

I might want to weld aluminum, but have no current projects with it. I often have some aluminum scrap and I love working with the stuff, so I presume I'd weld on it if I could but its not currently needed.

If I could weld cast iron, I would have various neighbors wanting their stoves repaired... again I'd like the ability but it is not really needed.

I do currently need to weld a light-weight roll cage, I want to make a custom 50cc hack (no reg/insurance) to run my shepherd around the mesa's nasty dirt backroads, and I also hope to build a few biomass gasifiers. I expect these projects would call for welding on between 18ga sheet steel up through maybe 1/4" steel plate or angle iron.

I also expect to do jewelry work this winter which could be O/A, or butane or air/propane instead if I don't need to deal with O/A tanks otherwise. The largest torch I might use for such work would be a Meca Midget or similar.

I currently have no really good way of cutting serious steel, I can cut everything I need to but its very slow with a hacksaw or my deWalt (don't bother) 18v angle grinder. I would certainly like a torch setup for cutting.

So, I am thinking that even though most people think of O/A welding as old-skool that it might be the best choice for me. Probably with a smaller torch system like the Midget.

But dealing with the tanks seems a pain. I read that I should NEVER transport acetylene in an enclosed vehicle? Is a welding shop likely to stop me from doing so? I have no way of using a hitch mount, the best I could do is put it on the hood or modify the vehicle (for which I'd need the torch in the first place). I live past the end of BFE down dirt roads, I think the nearest air-gas retailer is about 2 hours away, the dirt roads are only a couple miles but it is a half hour to town IF I find someone who runs tanks back and forth between Taos and Santa Fe.

I have a shed I can store the tanks upright in. I might want to bring tanks into the main cabin's greenhouse during use but wouldn't store them there. I'd probably prefer smaller tanks so they're easier to move but have no idea what size would be good for me.

So.... can I maybe get away with hauling the acetylene home from a random autobody shop in town that might swap my cylinders for me on their ride? From Santa Fe (no one else in vehicle)? How dangerous (or illegal) is it? I know many people here have hauled gasoline in water bladders.... I would, but I like to understand my risks.

Is dealing with the gas cylinders worth the bother, or should I get a better genset and electric welder (tig? mig? I CAN haul argon co2 etc in a suv right?)

Is there anything else less explosive than acetylene which will still make a good cone of inert gas as its combustion byproduct for welding (I understand that oxy/propane is poor for welding due to this reason)?

Also, how important is regulator quality for light tubing and sheet work? Money is very tight and two stage regulators bloody expensive, do I need them? If I'm just using it occasionally could cheapo china regulators make sense? Used name brand ones?

Thanks for any advice here.
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